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Home run ball leads Tech past SIUE in series opener

Home run ball leads Tech past SIUE in series opener

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – The long ball was out in full force for the Tennessee Tech baseball team Friday evening, as the Golden Eagles smashed four home runs on their way to a 13-6, Ohio Valley Conference series-opening victory at SIUE at Roy E. Lee Field at the Simmons Baseball Complex.

It didn't take long for the purple and gold to flash its muscle in the tilt, as first baseman Preston Ford was quick to get the visitors on the scoreboard. The senior slugged a two-run blast to left field for the early, 2-0 advantage, his seventh dinger of the year.

The Cougars (18-30-1, 10-12) answered back with a single marker in the first and took their first and only lead of the game in the second with a two-run round-tripper of their own. Trailing by one heading into the third, the Golden Eagles (29-20, 13-9) turned to another veteran slugger to provide the big swing.

A pair of walks and a base hit loaded the bags for the Cookeville crew, and right fielder Theo Bryant IV took his cue, belting a grand slam to left-center field to put Tech back on top, 6-3. The Golden Eagles added to the lead in the fourth, thanks to a two-run double down the left-field line courtesy of shortstop Tanner Shiver.

In the seventh, Bryant returned to his bopping ways, hammering a solo jack to left-center field for his second trip around the bases of the day and his ninth of the year. Third baseman Eddie Garza peppered an RBI single through the left side for a 10-3 advantage.

For good measure, the Golden Eagles tacked on three more runs in the ninth, this time with the team's fourth bomb of the night. Garza crushed his third blast of the year to left-center field, plating three more steaks.

SIUE produced three unearned runs in the ninth for the final score of 13-6.

Tech hurler Landon Smiddy delivered a solid starter to earn his fourth victory of the season, completing 5.0 innings with three runs allowed and four strikeouts. Jack Brafa covered the next 3.2 innings, holding the Cougars scoreless until the ninth.

A Golden Eagle error with two outs in the frame allowed a small rally for the home team to build, so Tech head coach Matt Bragga turned to freshman Juan Vargas to secure the final out. Brafa struck out two in his outing, with just three, unearned rounds surrendered on three hits.

Offensively, it was Ford, Garza, and designated hitter Mack Whitcomb each supplying three hits to the cause, with Garza racking up four RBI. Ford scored a team-high three runs while driving in a pair and Bryant led the purple and gold with five ribbies on a pair of hits.

Game two of the OVC series is set for a 2:00 p.m. CT first pitch Saturday afternoon at the Simmons Baseball Complex.

File photo by Jim Dillon

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